Good Italian Sunday Sauce Recipe?
July 30, 2005 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a great Italian Tomato "sunday sauce" recipe with bones in it.

We have a family our family has been friends with for years. They're a typical Italian American family, and the mother makes the most unbelievable sauce known to mankind.

If I remember it correctly, it has some sort of "meat shreds" in it, Sausage, meatballs, onions, tomatos, and proably a zillion other things.

It's VERY rich and meaty tasting. I remember sucking the marrow out of the bones that simmered in the sauce for 10+ hours.. Truly a wonderful food experience.

Additional info: So meaty that it had a sheen to it..

So after a horrifically failed tomato sauce experiment yesterday (storebought tomato sauce gussied up, then burnt to hell in a pressure cooker), I'm biting the bullet.

I need a recipe that has bones in it, meatballs and the like. I assume the shreds of meat came from the bones included..

Any suggestions? books? etc.

I've got a few starter links i've found, but i still haven't gotten clarity on what I'm doing. I like this as a base due to the tomato content and commentary on sugar, but I don't think it has enough garlic and the like. I also like this one because it includes a glass of wine, but I'm confused about the pork vs. veal vs. beef bones.

So any suggestions? I crave sauce!
posted by Lord_Pall to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just out of curiosity, why don't you just ask the family to teach you how to make the sauce or the recipe. Even if you no longer live near them or speak with them frequently, I imagine a great compliment to tell them that you can't stop thinking about that sauce.
posted by necessitas at 8:07 AM on July 30, 2005

I've never tried it, but a friend once told me that the Sopranos Family Cookbook had a really good recipe for Sunday Gravy. If you go to and use the "search inside this book" feature to search for "sunday", you should be able to find it easily.
posted by amarynth at 8:10 AM on July 30, 2005

Response by poster: I've lost touch with the original family :(.
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:24 AM on July 30, 2005

Ok, here's what you'll need:
1 large onion onion diced
2 cans of whole plum tomatoes
2 cans of tomato paste and then fill each can with water to add as well once they've been emptied
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons of olive oil
several bone-in pork chops
several pieces of stewing beef
meatballs if you know how to make them (that recipe I won't share)
1 tsp. sugar

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil.
Dump in all the tomato products.
Cook on medium-low for 3 hours.
Add the meat and cook for 2 more hours.
posted by dagnyduquette at 8:40 AM on July 30, 2005

Oh, one more thing....before you add the whole tomatoes place them in a bowl and use your hands to rip them apart, that way you won't have huge chunks floating in the sauce!
posted by dagnyduquette at 8:41 AM on July 30, 2005

Response by poster: Should i filter/strain the seeds?
posted by Lord_Pall at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2005

That's not necessary, as they disintegrate as they cook.
posted by dagnyduquette at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2005

Here is a food network recipe that sounds similar to what you are looking for (and similar to dagny's except they share the meatball recipe).
posted by necessitas at 9:55 AM on July 30, 2005

Check out Lidia Bastianich's website and books/DVDs, such as:
Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen
Lidia's Italian Table
Favorite Recipes from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen
I also recommend America's Test Kitchen."

In searching their website I found the following:
"Rustic Slow-Simmered Tomato Sauce with Meat. How do you get robust meaty flavor and thick, rich texture into a basic tomato sauce? We tested eight cuts of meat and found that ribs make the most flavorful sauce. Note: Premium Content: America's Test Kitchen only provides free access to the current and previous season's information.
posted by ericb at 10:37 AM on July 30, 2005

Here's the "Sopranos Family Cookbook" recipe for Sunday Gravy:

For the Sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb meaty pork neck bones or spareribs
1 lb veal stew meat or 2 veal shoulder chops
1 lb Italian-style plain or fennel pork sausages
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 28- to 35-oz cans peeled Italian tomatoes
2 cups water
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

For the Meatballs
1 lb ground beef or a combination of beef and pork
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, preferably homemade
2 large eggs
1 tsp very finely minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Pat the pork dry and put the pieces in the pot. Cook, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer the pork to a plate. Brown the veal and then the sausages in the same way, removing them to the plate when browned.

Drain off most of the fat from the pot. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden. Remove and discard the garlic. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

With a food mill, puree the tomatoes, with their juice, into the pot. Or, for a chunkier sauce, just chop up the tomatoes and add them. Add the water and salt and pepper to taste. Add the pork, veal, and sausages and basil and bring the sauce to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more water.

Meanwhile, make the meatballs:

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a large bowl. Mix together thoroughly. Rinse your hands with cool water and lightly shape the mixture into 2-inch balls. (Note: If you are making meatballs for lasagne or baked ziti, shape the meat into tiny balls the size of a small grape.)

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the meatballs and brown them well on all sides. (They will finish cooking later.) Transfer the meatballs to a plate.

After 2 hours, add the meatballs and cook for 30 minutes or until the sauce is thick and the meats very tender.

To serve, remove the meats from the sauce and set aside. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve the meats as a second course, or reserve them for another day.
posted by Alylex at 11:22 AM on July 30, 2005

(I should add that I have never made this particular recipe, but others I've tried from this book have been very successful.)
posted by Alylex at 11:24 AM on July 30, 2005

I have made that exact recipe that Alylex was nice enough to type up for you, and it's fantastic. A true Sunday "gravy" kind of sauce. I add a bit of cinnamon to mine - my grandmother always did that. I also add braciole, which is the lovely meat that shreds in the sauce. I don't see how any sauce can call itself Sunday gravy without braciole in it. It's very rich, and adds a wonderful flavor. It's very important to use several different meats, and do not skimp on quality. If you want an "Oh My God" sauce, don't skimp on the quality of anything that you use.
posted by iconomy at 11:41 AM on July 30, 2005

iconomy, do you just use the thin braciole meat or actually make braciole and throw them into the sauce too?
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:02 PM on July 30, 2005

I use the thin meat, and I put a sort of stuffing in it (usually bread crumbs and chopped hard boiled eggs and spices all mixed together) and then roll them and tie them with string. Then I lightly brown them in a pan, and add them to the sauce. You have to cook the sauce all day, then the braciole sort of falls apart. It's orgasmic!

Also, listening to Frank Sinatra while you make the sauce is key ;)
posted by iconomy at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2005

Response by poster: Great!. I've got a wide variety of raw materials and I'll use an amalgamation of the recipes i've got here, focusing on the soprano one.

The bracciole is the last element I was unsure of. I honestly thought it was just stew meat that was cooked to hell and back, but slices makes far more sense given the shredding..

Off to cook!
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2005

listening to Frank Sinatra while you make the sauce is key

I use Verdi myself, but I totally agree that music can add a detectable je ne sais quoi to your cooking!

posted by CunningLinguist at 2:08 PM on July 30, 2005

Rustic Slow-Simmered Tomato Sauce with Meat

This sauce can be made with either beef or pork ribs. Depending on their size, you will need 4 or 5 ribs. To prevent the sauce from becoming greasy, trim all external fat from the ribs and drain off most of the fat from the skillet after browning. This thick, rich, robust sauce is best with tubular pasta, such as rigatoni, ziti, or penne. Pass grated Pecorino (especially nice with pork) or Parmesan cheese at the table. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds beef short ribs or pork spareribs or country-style ribs, trimmed of fat
table salt
ground black pepper
1 medium onion , minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 can whole tomatoes (28 ounces), drained, juice reserved, tomatoes chopped fine

1. Heat oil in 12-inch, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season ribs with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, turning occasionally with tongs, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer ribs to plate; pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet. Add onion and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and simmer, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until wine reduces to a glaze, about 2 minutes.

2. Return ribs and accumulated juices to skillet; add tomatoes and reserved juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently, turning ribs several times, until meat is very tender and falling off the bones, 1 1/2 hours (for pork spareribs or country-style ribs) to 2 hours (for beef short ribs).

3. Transfer ribs to clean plate. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred with fingers, discarding fat and bones. Return shredded meat to sauce in skillet. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until heated through and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. To serve, toss sauce with drained pasta.
posted by crunchland at 2:58 PM on July 30, 2005

crunchland - I assume that's the America's Test Kitchen recipe. Thanks!
posted by ericb at 3:52 PM on July 30, 2005

I have a friend of Italian heritage who makes such a sauce. She uses beef spareribs in addition to meatballs. After hours of simmering, the beef just falls off the bone in shreds. She also uses a food mill to pulverize whole canned tomatoes and remove the seeds. (A step I'd recommend as when I've left the seeds in, I think it makes the sauce more bitter or sour.) Finally, she cooks it the day before she plans on serving it. She finds the flavors really meld together after the sauce has been refrigerated for a day.

I don't have an exact recipe although the ones posted here all seem like a good place to start experimenting.
posted by Sully6 at 4:22 PM on July 30, 2005

I can second the beef spareribs as being excellent in such a sauce. My grandmother used to make this, and now I'm tempted to try. Tasty thread.
posted by mek at 3:37 AM on July 31, 2005

Just by the way, the correct italian term for the slow cooked meaty sauce is a ragu (with an accent over the u that I don't know how to do).

Nice recipes by the way, took them down myself.
posted by wilful at 12:18 AM on August 3, 2005

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